The Lloyds Bank - National Business Awards UK 2017

13th November 2018


When the going gets tough

When the going gets tough

28 May 2014

Guy Rigby highlights traits of successful entrepreneurs by looking at past winners of the Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year

When the going gets tough, the tough get going according to the old adage. And so it has proven to be since the onset of the recession, which has prompted an ever increasing number of courageous, determined and often visionary individuals to pick up the baton of entrepreneurship and start their own businesses, writes Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurial Services at Smith & Williamson. Whether through frustration, necessity or desire, the record number of start-ups in the UK has created what can only be described as an entrepreneurial revolution.

Everyone loves an entrepreneur, and there has never been more support available for people who want to start their own business. There are publications, events, networks and clubs. There are business angels, incubators and accelerators. There is social media to spread the message and crowd sourcing to help find customers and funds.  Almost anything an entrepreneur needs to know can be accessed at the click of a link, anytime and anywhere. Even the Government is joining the party, recognising the opportunity and offering increased incentives to early stage and growing enterprises through entrepreneur friendly policies and tax breaks.

The term 'entrepreneur' is widely used, but what does it mean to be an entrepreneur, and how can you establish if you are one? Entrepreneurs typically have a number of distinctive traits which set them apart. These are often based on a reluctance to accept the status quo, and the need to do something to change it. Being restless, ambitious and enthusiastic is a great starting point, with determination and stamina following close behind.

Over the last few years, the National Business Awards have chosen a number of these leaders as their 'Entrepreneur of the Year'. So what was it that made them stand out?

Showing or involving great activity or vitality

In 2013, judges chose David Spencer-Percival, CEO of Spencer Ogden, as their winner saying: “With his infectious energy and passion, David Spencer-Percival has built a fast-growth, game-changing company while nurturing talent and giving back.”

You need high energy levels to maintain the momentum you need for your business to succeed. Long hours, even longer weeks, and a skewed work-life balance are involved at the foundation of any business. Although this may ease over time, you will need to maintain your enthusiasm to energise and inspire your team.

Relating to or prompted by instinct; done without conscious thought; doing or being a specified thing apparently naturally or automatically

Colin Stevens, CEO of Better Bathrooms, was crowned winner in 2012. Judges said: “Fizzing with ideas, counter-intuitive and disruptive, Colin proves that entrepreneurship is something you’re born with. Having started with nothing, Colin has achieved success through resourcefulness and brains – and stands out as a role model for entrepreneurs.”

As Richard Branson says “I rely far more on gut instinct than researching huge amounts of statistics.” Acting instinctively and trusting your gut is the way of a disruptive entrepreneur, who can identify a new business or market opportunity and know that it is the right move, without disappearing under a pile of market reports and analytics. But, then again, you might want to read those too!

Having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs

After triumphing in 2011, Ella's Kitchen founder Paul Lindley said: “Like me, everyone at Ella's Kitchen is ethically and passionately driven and commercially directed - I believe this approach has driven our success.”

A lot of people have good ideas, but passion is what spurs and sustains an entrepreneur. Passion drives innovation, sustains energy, creates purpose and unifies the team. The story goes that when Bill Clinton, the ex-US president, visited the supremely clean space facility at NASA, he bumped into a man with a broom. When asked what his role was at NASA, the man told Clinton, “I take people to the moon.”

Innovative or groundbreaking

Voice Commerce CEO Nick Ogden impressed judges most in 2010. They said: “Adapting voice signature technology to authorise payments over mobile phone, Nick has created a business model and technology with the potential to become even more widespread in the markets in which it operates.”

Great leaders envision the real and the ideal side by side. Bill Gates (Microsoft) had a vision for a computer on every desk, whilst Jeff Bezos (Amazon) imagined a store without walls. Boeing’s Bill Allen dreamt of a jet-powered passenger aircraft and Henry Ford built a car for the masses. As Henry Ford famously pointed out, if he had just asked what people wanted, they would have said a faster horse!

With this year’s National Business Awards process now in full swing, I look forward to seeing the particular traits and talents that will determine the Smith & Williamson Entrepreneur of the Year for 2014.

Good luck to all entrants!

Guy Rigby, Head of Entrepreneurial Services
T: 020 7131 8213

More about Smith & Williamson
Smith & Williamson is one of the UK’s leading accountancy and investment management groups, with 11 principal offices in the UK and Ireland and 1,500 people. The entrepreneurial and growth business sector is one of the firm’s key areas of focus, with clients including private and quoted businesses, as well as their owners and investors.

For earlier stage and growth businesses a dedicated entrepreneurs team offers a range of specialist services. These include advising on the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS/SEIS), R&D tax credits and the Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) scheme. A full range of accountancy, audit, tax, M&A and financial services is also offered.

For busy entrepreneurs and executives, the firm also offers a private client service. ‘MyPersonalFD’ looks after the individual, providing tax, financial planning and investment management, as well as advising on the individual’s ownership interests.

The firm has an international capability in over 100 countries which comes through its memberships of Nexia International, one of the longest established global networks of independent accounting and consulting firms, and M&A International, a leading mid-market M&A network.

To find out more about Smith & Williamson visit, or alternatively call Guy Rigby, head of the entrepreneurial services group, on 020 7131 8213 or email

Smith & Williamson LLP
Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International



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